Russia and Ukraine: where is the ball now?

Status: 04/29/2022 09:05 a.m

Russia and Ukraine speak of a willingness to negotiate – but see the obligation to bring the opponent. Even the assessment of whether there have been new proposals differ.

By Martha Wilczynski-Bartels, ARD Studio Moscow

Even if the fighting in Ukraine continues and real peace still seems a long way off, the word “negotiations” is mentioned almost every day. Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin, meeting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Moscow, said:

I would like to inform you that, despite the fact that the military operation is continuing, we expect to reach agreements through diplomatic channels. We conduct negotiations, we do not renounce them.

Lavrov sees Kyiv on the train

However, when it comes to making real progress, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov clearly sees Ukraine as having the blame:

As you know, we agreed immediately after President Zelenskyy proposed negotiations in early March. But the behavior of the Ukrainian delegation at the talks, the behavior of President Zelensky himself, who refuses to confirm that they have received our new proposals – this is, of course, depressing.

Just over a week ago, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had sent a document with proposals to Kyiv. Which exactly is not officially known. “The ball is on their side now, we’re waiting for their answers,” said Peskow.

Foreign Minister Lavrov says Russia is ready to negotiate and blames Ukraine for deadlock.

Image: EPA

Selenskyj sees Moscow on the train

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said at the time that he had received nothing.

Is the ball on our side? Well, I used to play football quite well, in peaceful times. And what are the rules? You need two teams and one ball. Here it seems to me that Mr. Peskow is playing football with himself.

Later, Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podoliak admitted that while a paper had been received from Moscow, it was far from a real, new draft.

This is the Istanbul communiqué, which Ukraine handed over to the Russian side in Istanbul. Then the Russian side took the time to study the proposals – especially with regard to an agreement on guarantees and securities – and then made counter-proposals and comments. As usual. There is, and this is important, no new document.

No direct meeting in April

Since the talks in Istanbul at the end of March, there has not been a face-to-face meeting between the negotiating groups of Russia and Ukraine. Among other things, the pictures from Bucha and other Kiev suburbs had stalled the negotiations.

Now the Ukrainian side is pushing for another face-to-face meeting of the negotiating teams. Presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych says: “We suggested to the Russians that they conduct a special round of negotiations on the spot – right on the walls of Azovstal.”

Lavrov demands an answer

He means the surrounded industrial plant in the port city of Mariupol. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has already rejected this proposal.

Well, what can I say? A theatrical gesture indeed, Ukrainians love to stage everything. Apparently they wanted to play some kind of heartbreaking scene. If we are talking about a serious attitude within the framework of negotiations, it would be better if they reacted quickly to our proposal.

The Ukrainian side proposes negotiations in Maiupol – Russia considers it theatrical.

Image: REUTERS

Erdogan offers himself again

In the meantime, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has once again brought himself up as a mediator:

The negotiations that took place in Istanbul remain the main basis for solving the crisis between Ukraine and Russia. Our aim is to elevate the Istanbul Process to the level of a meeting between the two heads of state and to ensure that the signatures that end this war are signed at the same time.

Presidents Putin and Erdogan have spoken twice on the phone since then and agreed to stay in touch. Moscow has so far rejected a direct meeting with the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy – arguing that it is still too early for that.

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